Puntland authorities arrest online journalist

New York, June 30, 2011Police arrested Faysal Mohamed, at left, a reporter for the Hiiraan Online website Wednesday morning in the port town of Bossasso in the semi-autonomous republic of Puntland, local journalists told CPJ. No official charges have been brought against him, although the deputy commander of the Bossasso District Police told journalists that Mohamed was arrested for publishing a “false news report” on Hiiraan Online. He is currently being held in the Bossasso Central Police Station. 

The day before his arrest, police visited Mohamed’s former employers at the Eastern Television Network (ETN) searching for him. Police arrested Mohamed at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday shortly after the reporter came to the Regional Police Division headquarters to learn why the police were looking for him, the secretary-general of the Media Association of Puntland, Burhan Dahir, told CPJ.

Local journalists said they suspected Mohamed was arrested for an online article published Sunday that claimed two men whose bodies were found near a roadside in Bossasso were part of the Puntland security forces. The police denied they were security personnel, local journalists told CPJ. It was not immediately clear how the men were killed.

“Faysal Mohamed is being deprived of his liberty on the flimsiest of grounds. Publishing a so-called ‘false news report’ should not be a criminal offense,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “He must be released immediately.”

Authorities arrested Horseed Media radio director Abdifatah Jama on treason charges for airing an interview with an Islamist rebel leader last year. President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole issued a pardon releasing the journalist two months after his arrest.